Food fresh and flavorful enough to take the fiesta spotlight – that’s what earned William Cribb, owner and chef at Willy Taco and Cribbs Kitchen, a place on the 2017 South Carolina Chef Ambassador roster.
Each year, the Chef Ambassador program, an initiative of Gov. Nikki Haley, names four chefs from across the state to promote South Carolina’s culinary heritage and local food culture. During their one-year tenure, these representatives appear at events to conduct cooking demonstrations, promote healthy childhood nutrition and spotlight the state’s rich agricultural bounty.
With locations in Greenville and Spartanburg, Willy Taco has helped put Mexican food on the South Carolina map with Cribb’s inspired menu of fusion tacos and other dishes. With mash-ups like fried chicken and collards tucked into fresh corn tortillas, it’s little wonder Cribb topped a recent Southern Living list of best tacos in the South. Chef Cribb is also at the helm of Cribbs Kitchen and Cribbs Catering.
Here, chef Cribb discusses his journey from home kitchen to the bustling kitchens of the Upstate’s Willy Taco, Cribbs Kitchen and Cribbs Catering:
Q: When did the culinary muse first beckon you to pursue a chefs’ life?
A: Cooking really great food and sharing it with loved ones and friends was a huge part of my family dynamic growing up. My mother was a force to reckon with in the home kitchen, and my father was master of the grill. We entertained friends and family at the dining room table every weekend. I suppose it was only natural that I ventured into the kitchen myself. I knew as young as middle school that I belonged in the kitchen and restaurants in general.
Q: As a chef, what is the main philosophy that defines and guides your kitchen?
A: I believe in inspiring and empowering the team that drives the restaurant every day. I manage from an open-minded style and encourage creativity so we can all learn from each other.
Q: Which South Carolina products could you not live without?
A: I incorporate South Carolina stone-ground grits on most of my menus, whether it be Anson Mills or Adluh Farms. They have a distinct flavor and texture that really shines through any dish. I also believe using local produce whenever possible enhances the flavor and authenticity of a dish.
Q: What is your signature dish?
A: If I had to pick one dish that reflects my creativity and vision it would be a version of a South Carolina whitefish seared in brown butter, pimento cheese stone-ground grits, and slow braised collards with a local green tomato chutney.
Q: As a Chef Ambassador for South Carolina, what ideals do you hope to share with the public and why?
A: South Carolina has so much to offer the dining community. I hope to help people see the great variety that our state has within its culinary scene. Not only are we raising the bar for Southern cooking all across the state, but South Carolina also lends a hand to worldly fusion with diverse local ingredients.